Saying goodbye to beloved athletes is hard, whether it be via trade, free agency, or season-ending injury. Even if the athlete wasn’t a fan favorite, it can still feel odd to imagine them in another jersey or out for the rest of the year.
With the NHL trade deadline coming to a close on Jan. 24 and the MLB free agency chugging along, there was plenty of player movement to break down this week.
Kyrie Irving: -0.4 Net Rating
The latest episode of the Irving saga in Brooklyn came on Jan. 20 when the Nets announced that Irving would have shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the season. Irving’s tendency to get injured seems to rear its ugly head every season, and Irving will now fail to hit 70 games in a season for the third-straight season. In fact, Irving has only reached the 70-game mark three times in his nine-year NBA career.
It’s hard to make much of Irving’s stats since he only played in 20 games this season, a small sample size compared to Brooklyn’s other guards. During that span, Irving averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and shot 39.4 percent from three-point range, while knocking down 92.2 percent of his free throws. As nice as his averages look, he still posted a negative net rating and the Nets went 8-12 in those games.
When Irving sat and Spencer Dinwiddie took his place, Brooklyn went a much more respectable 17-17. Through 55 games this season, Dinwiddie is averaging 20.8 points, 6.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game on 41.4 percent shooting from the field. Dinwiddie’s stats don’t look quite as pretty, but he has arguably been a much more effective player for the Nets. Even more importantly, Dinwiddie has been a leader for a Nets team lacking a strong locker room presence.
There is no telling who will be running the show in Brooklyn a few months from now, but Irving’s continued absence on the court will mess with the Nets’ already flawed chemistry. The combination of Irving and Kevin Durant next season looks lethal on paper, but they won’t be able to beat any quality opponents if the entire team can’t play like a cohesive unit and if Irving can’t stay healthy.
Ondrej Kase: 4-of-5 on Shootouts
After playing the better part of four seasons in Anaheim, Kase was shipped off to Boston this week for a David Backes salary dump, defenseman prospect Axel Andersson and a first-round pick.
Kase doesn’t jump out on the statistics sheet, but he was a steal for the Bruins considering how relatively little they gave up in the deal. The deal works in Kase’s favor, too, since he can finally get away from the Ducks’ poorly structured offensive system.
Kase has scored as many shootout goals by himself as the Bruins have all season. The Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault and the Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg are the only other skaters with an 80 percent or higher shootout goal percentage on at least five attempts. Considering that the Bruins have lost seven shootouts and are yet to win one, Kase’s shootout abilities are a huge plus.
Even though he has recorded only 23 points this year, Kase gives the Bruins depth at right wing. Kase has been in a bit of a shooting slump this year, but he is unafraid to take shots, as shown by his 236 total shot attempts on Hockey Reference. At some point, those shots are bound to start going in, so Boston fans can be relieved to know that his confidence clearly hasn’t wavered.
On the other hand, the trade only further signifies how deep Anaheim is into its rebuild. The Ducks already score the second-fewest goals per game in the league and that isn’t going to get any better with Kase gone.
Brock Holt: .297 Batting Average in 2019
Red Sox Nation said goodbye to Brock Holt on Wednesday when he agreed to sign with Milwaukee for the 2020 season. You don’t have to be a Sox fan to understand why Holt was so valuable to the Red Sox organization, even if Sox’s Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom didn’t see it that way.
Holt had one of the best hitting seasons of his career in 2019, and amazingly, he didn’t rely on the home-run-or-bust methodology to do so. Holt finished the season with only three home runs in 87 games, but his willingness to play small ball was helpful when the rest of Boston’s lineup wasn’t producing.
Holt didn’t mind being a Swiss Army knife on the field either, as he played every position but pitcher and catcher last season. Holt recorded a 1.000 fielding percentage at four positions and only posted a percentage below .944 in right field, according to Baseball Reference. He spent the bulk of his season at second base, where he posted a .991 fielding percentage and made only two errors in 216 chances.
Boston missed the postseason in 2019, but when Holt did get a taste of October baseball in 2018, he capitalized on it. Holt batted .259 in the 2018 playoffs, scoring seven runs and knocking in six, according to Baseball Reference. Holt was especially hot against the New York Yankees and went 4-of-6 in that series to help Boston advance past their division rivals.
Holt’s contribution to the Sox went far beyond the stats themselves. You can’t attach a stat to his years-long status as a fan favorite, his home run celebrations with J.D. Martinez and work with the Jimmy Fund. Numbers are important, but they aren’t everything.